At first, I will selfishly admit that after hearing Gra was stable and was being released from the hospital, I wanted to wait a few days to make the trip due to plans I had for the weekend with friends. This was exciting because I often feel I have so few friends, and it was the first meeting of our book club. After a few seconds of being selfish and holding on to the desire to attend the book club so badly, I realized how incredibly selfish I was being and how stupid it was for me to assume that Gra would wait a couple days for me to get there to say good bye (which is what I essentially went to Jacksonville to do - say goodbye to my Graggy, for that very well could be the last time I would see her).
I left work Friday at noon and hit the road (with my new tires on my car, thanks to my wonderfully amazing, mechanic boyfriend for not only getting the Goodrides for me, but also letting me know that I wasn't to go on any road trips because my previous tires were absolutely balled and had no tread whatsoever).
Before my trip began, I stopped at the library and got two books on tape. The first I finished right before I headed back to Niceville last night. Best Friends Forever is written by Jennifer Weiner and was so enjoyable, my trip to Jacksonville flew by and I didn't want to get out of the car when I arrived at my grandmother's for dinner. The second, I am still listening to currently. The remaining four discs are a telling sign that I will be listening to The Wonder Spot for a while longer. Books on CD are a huge part of my life due to the fact that since I got my license when I turned 16, I have traveled on a consistant basis and thus, have 110,000 miles on my 2005 Corolla.
After forcing myself to pause the disc I was currently listening to as I pulled into Gra and Grammy's driveway and kill the engine on my car, I walked inside and was greeted by my five siblings, mom, stepdad, two aunts, three uncles, three cousins, my grandmother and my great-grandmother and Lizzie and Nora, the puppy dogs. It was such an overwhelming feeling of warmth as we went around the dinner table, all sharing our fondest memories of Gra.
"Tonight very well could have been the best night ever...I love my family, it was so amazing having everyone together. So thankful for you all!" read my Facebook status that evening. And it was true, I couldn't have imagined a better evening. The food, traditional cousin line-up picture, watching old family home videos, looking at old family pictures and listening to the boys play guitar together.
(Sitting on the dock at night, singing and playing the guitar)
We spent three days eating together, laughing together, watching and re-watching the family videos and just being together. Being the Lane/Berg/Chandler/Halperin/Cottrill fusion that we are. The fusion that I love, that makes me feel at home everytime I'm around my family. That reminds me where I come from, who I am. It was three days I will never forget.
When I said goodbye to everyone last night to head back to Niceville and resume my life with my other family, I felt sad to leave them but so over-filled with joy from the time we spent together. I went around the table and kissed and hugged everyone goodbye. Some of them I'd see again soon, the next time I head to Jacksonville, other it would be longer. But then again, who knows, maybe it wouldn't be long until we all are forced to reunite to say good-bye again.
When I reached Gra at the head of the table, I kissed her and held her. She told me she loved me. And I told her I loved her back. When I said goodbye to her, I said it with all the love I felt in my heart, I looked her in the face, and smiled at her wrinkly face, her slouched body, her big smile. Oh, how I love that woman.